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Chicano Soul… Do You Have It?

Created: 06 May, 2011
Updated: 20 April, 2022
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8 min read

Music doesn’t define a people…but a people that define music

By Frankie Firme

    Chicano music…means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

    To generic “Hispanics” (in particular, those 40 to 60-year-olds who used to be Chicanos, LOL), they figure, “OK…I’ve heard a little El Chicano, Tierra, Malo, Los Lobos, and Santana…I’m grown up now…so what’s the big deal?”

    To those outside of the realm of the Brown, they figure, “I don’t understand Spanish language music wherever it comes from…so what’s the big deal?”

    To a lot of “Mexicans”…Chicano is a dirty word, a class of poor uneducated low-riding people that are beneath them, not worthy of equal consideration, a decadent, a traitor to the race, something to mock because of their poor Spanish, especially by those that are first or second generation U.S. born Mexican~Americans, with parents who still got a toehold in “the old country,” and who have NO idea of the sacrifices made by Chicanos circa 1964-1971, so the subsequent generations can be cops, politicians, heads of industry, music artists, and stuck-up college grads with a Spanish accent…and feel Mariachi and Ranchera should be the official Hispanic music of Mexican descendants.

    They are some of the biggest culprits of the “Chicano music? What’s the big deal?” mentality…a hard one to understand as well…hard heads are usually encapsulated in their small world with others like them. A big “thank you” would suffice right about now.

    To the true Brown folks of the southwest United States known mythically as Aztlan, particularly California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, Chicano music is a vibrant & colorful mix and reflection of bi-lingualality, if such a word exists, that is not just music made by Chicano/Mexican American artists, but of a cultural ride and experience through a unique portion of the Latino experience of generations past, present, and soon to come…a force that can move people…and a source of misguided envy…

    It is an experience that one must experience face up…before one snickers, sneers, or gives up an unsolicited and unqualified, lame opinion… and man…do I get A LOT of those!

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    Chicano music does NOT define who Chicanos are…but Chicanos DO define what Chicano music is…and it’s all good for those who wish to delve into the Brown Soul of southwestern America, where there’s no one singular point of orientation…and THAT pisses some culturally inept intellectuals and “know-it-alls” off.

    Chicano music has roots in African-American Doo-Wop. It still has a bit of a tickle from the 1940’s-1950’s American big band & early “Boogie-Woogie” sound. It gets a little nudge from early Ger-man~Bavarian polkas. It has roots in Afro-Cubano rhythms. It has roots in the uniquely American genre of Blues. It takes a hint of a kick from Country & Western music, early American Rock & Roll, a bit of Mexican traditional music, and nobody can deny the East Coast Puerto Rican Salsa influence in our Latin Jazz.

    Mix it all up, and it is what it is…a very unique musical taste spanning numerous genres, each one blending seamlessly into another, totally American and not to be confused with today’s so-called ‘Latin rock” sound from other Latin American countries.

   Something familiar, but something you just can’t put your finger on to easily categorize.

   AND…to the surprise of those who don’t know exactly what country Chicanos actually come from (I actually had a Marine buddy from Pocatelo, Idaho, ask me about that about 37 years ago)…not all beloved Chicano music is performed entirely by Chicanos! (and yes! We DO write songs and sing in English very well!)

   That is a good bite to swallow…so I’ll give you a minute to digest all that….

   Ok Now!… Back to the action…

   Chicano music is something that Chicanos , and people of objective open minds with the power of common sense and acceptance, along with those possessing music talent or appreciation, can experience and enjoy as they do life itself. Our music tells tales of life…if you look and listen closely…and we don’t feel sorry for ourselves or anybody else in our music.

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   Whenever one goes to an event where Chicano music is played, you will notice that people there dance, laugh, bob their heads, move their shoulders, tap their feet, talk about the “old days”, reminisce about those no longer with us, drink, eat, meet new people, sing along, discuss possibilities, and most importantly…they talk and communicate in a manner they don’t do anywhere else. Whenever they can, they bring their kids, or meet up with friends and family members…no sense enjoying this alone, right?

   You also see people of different races, albeit majority Latino, the music excludes NOBODY!… art should be enjoyed and admired by the entire World…and Chicano music is an art unrecognized by many.

   This is the kind of experience that makes memories, and adds a nice touch of difference, color, & comfort to the World we live in…and a lot of negative stuff could be said about the World we live in today…but why be a sniveler or a teller of dark tales, right?

   Recently, I attended an outstanding Chicano music show put on by my good friend Ruben Molina at the Taste of Texas in Covina, California. Some impressive names, if you’re up and up on Chicano music…but a source of head-scratching if you’re not…until you got there!

   Headed up by a talented Caucasian veteran music artist and band leader named Larry Lange from Houston, Texas, the night was a surprising sparkle of bilingual music that crossed almost all genres of music for a well dressed and older crowd that still “gots it”, if you know what I mean.

   We talking real Rhythm & Blues, Rock & Roll, Classic Tejano, Classic Doo-Wop, Rock, Classic Soul and Soul Oldies, Rock-a-Billy…and the dancing was on till closing!…not the commercial, faux kiddie scene of MTV and BET, for sure.

   Two nights of hard hitting live music performances, one in Covina, and one in The City of Industry the next night, and names like Larry Lange & the Lonely Knights, Johnny Hernandez, The Royal Chessman, Pachuco Jose, Greg Esparza, JoAnna Ramirez, Valentina Estrada, Rico del Barrio, Bobby Loya, Johnny & Dalia, Tex Nakamura (a Japanese Brutha!), and Wino Boogie became names to remember… and a musical experience never to forget!

   Some great Chicano music, not ALL performed by Chicano artists, can be heard on the world wide Internet radio stations EastLARevue.com and ChicanoExpress.com. If you haven’t heard the variety of Chicano music tastes yet…check it out, 24 hours a day, heard around the World.

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   I went to an outdoor car show a couple of weeks ago in Lake View Terrace, California, where I was able to catch a live music performance by my good friends Tierra, along with the comical genius of comedian Gilbert Esquivel, another good friend. Again, another great Chicano music-entertainment experience, with people of all races enjoying the moment, and having a great time.

   July 4th, both Tierra & The Temptations will be performing at Hansen Dam in Lake View Terrace. (Admission is FREE, too!)

   The San Fernando Valley Marine Corps League will be hosting a great slew of Chicano music shows that will showcase the many tastes of Chicano music ranging from 1940’s-50’s Pachuco Boogie-Swing, to Classic Soul Oldies, Latin Jazz, hard core Rock & Funk, Disco, Cumbias, Blues, Rock-a-Billy,Tejano, and a bit of new stuff….all for your enjoyment at the San Fernando American Legion Hall starting in July. (All to be listed in our calendario section here on LatinoLA)

   Scheduled acts include Pachuco Jose y los Diamontes, Wino Boogie, The Sidetracs Bands featuring Sara Morgan, Blues Straight Up, George Salazar’s 2nd Time Around Band, the Anthony Prieto Band, Soul Pursuit, The Company, Satisfaction, Kool Breeze featuring Rocky Padilla, Louie Parra, and Three Mad Latins, and the incomparable Mr. Bob DeSena & the Bob DeSena Latin Jazz Band.

   Names you may or may not know…but rest assured, they draw a crowd of special people who appreciate the art of music and dancing and living life…Chicano style !…and you are most cordially invited!

   English or Spanish (with a little slang in between), artists and audiences of all colors and Raza’s, it’s Chicano music in the Land of 1000 Dances, a truly AMERICAN experience on American soil, at it’s best.

   …won’t you step out and taste a little?……

Frankie Firme can be heard daily on world wide Internet radio station www.eastLARevue.com. This article first apeared in LatinoLa.com

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